They are, as a group, (and I don’t say this lightly!) perhaps my very favourite plant! If I had acres and acres of land I would fill it with beautiful trees (including lots of Japanese Maples) and underplant them with rhododendrons.
There are few comments from customers at the garden centre that I find truly annoying, but when people say – I don’t like rhodos because they only bloom for two weeks a year – I feel like slapping them!
First off, the bloom can last for a lot longer than a couple of weeks, especially in a cool spring (par for the course around here). Then there’s the fact that many rhodos have beautiful foliage, and a venerable plant can attain a level of architectural beauty seldom seen in most shrubbery.
Some rhododendrons sprout new leaves delightfully blanketed with indumentum (fuzz) that can range from snow-white to rich cinnamon in colour. Every year a few people rush into the garden centre clutching these new fuzzy leaves that they’ve torn unceremoniously from their poor plants, demanding that I diagnose what kind of disease is afflicting their rhodo. Sometimes I have a hard time convincing them that all is well unless I show them some of our rhodos exhibiting the same “symptoms”.
Even when my rhodos blooms have faded I’m not upset, because I know what comes next! Emerging from underneath spent blossom clusters the new foliage springs forth, fresh and lovely (or fresh and fuzzy, in some cases). Some of my fast growing varieties like Lem’s Monarch (aka Pink Walloper) seem to almost double in size each year!
By the end of the summer the flower buds for next year will form, and some of those are quite spectacular. My Clayoquot Warrior produces stiffly upright dark red buds that bristle atop the narrow leaves, looking very warrior-like.
From February (in a good year) through June I have rhodos in bloom, peaking during May. I swoon through the month of May, admiring the voluptuous beauty of extravagant colour in my garden, thanks to my rhodos.
Here are a few pictures of some of the rhodos I am growing in my new garden.